Notre Dame, Ogunbowale rally past No. 2 Louisville

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Updated: January 11, 2019

10:26 PM ET

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame has lived a dream for two years, winning a national title a season ago and ascending to No. 1 for a second time already this season. And yet the Fighting Irish kept finding reasons to wake up in a cold sweat after playing Louisville.

So the Fighting Irish figured out how to make the most of the nightmare.

It wasn’t always artistic. It wasn’t ever particularly efficient, right down to letting a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter dwindle to just two points. It wasn’t a dream performance by any stretch.

But the result was ideal.

And No. 1 Notre Dame’s 82-68 win against No. 2 Louisville not only solidified the ranking, it killed off Notre Dame’s lone remaining bogeyman.

It was the kind of day when Arike Ogunbowale flirted with scoring in single digits for the first time in nearly a year. At least until she did what she does with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter and a clutch jumper in the final minute on her way to a game-high 30 points.

It was telling that midway through the second quarter, Durr had scored 16 points seemingly without breaking a sweat, while Ogunbowale had to work the full length of the court to get anything going. Louisville’s lead grew as big as seven points in the second quarter.

“We weren’t getting any flow in the offense. We didn’t have any rhythm in the offense,” McGraw said. “We were putting it on the floor a little too much. We were a little out of sync with what we were running. I didn’t think we were getting the motion that we needed.

“And then defensively, really disappointed with the way we guarded Durr. She had a great first half.”

Crucially, however, Notre Dame also had as many offensive rebounds as turnovers in that first half. It was that effort, best embodied by Shepard that made this unlike the game played a year ago Friday in Louisville. Shepard had 13 rebounds in the first half, four fewer than Louisville, and finished with seven points and 15 boards to help Notre Dame outrebound Louisville 48-32. Ever the perfectionist, McGraw noted she could be a bit more of a force on the offensive glass, but the rebounding work and deft interior passing free Turner next to her to attack.

“I think they’re just a great complementary pair,” McGraw said of the two posts who are playing together for the first time this season.

The Fighting Irish kept coming, kept putting shots on the rim and kept going for rebounds. It was the only thing the Cardinals couldn’t contend with and they paid dearly for it. By halftime, Evans and Carter each had three fouls, Jones had two after playing sparingly and three other Louisville players also had two fouls, including Durr. The foul trouble never relented.

“When Carter got the fouls — she’s a big key to their team, she makes them go,” McGraw said. “She allows Durr to take time off the point. And then when Evans got into foul trouble, they really didn’t have the backup point guard. … They’re just such an aggressive man-to-man team, and we wanted to attack them to make them foul us.”

Louisville coach Jeff Walz said that, while secretly wondering at one point if he’d have to put his pre-teen daughter in the game to keep five players on the court, he told his players to maintain their defensive energy in the second half and not worry about fouls. Still, the reactions slowed half a beat, the space opened up an extra inch or two — enough for Ogunbowale to take over.

She doesn’t need much of an invitation. She scored five points in the blowout loss at Louisville a season ago. She scored 26 in the second half Thursday.

“Just try to be aggressive,” Ogunbowale said. “They were getting a lot of fouls, so we were trying to attack them.”

Notre Dame won the championship a season ago by finding a way to make things work, not letting myriad injuries derail its season. Thursday night, it passed the only test still outstanding in this run.

And it did it by leaning into the nightmare.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/story/_/id/25730630/notre-dame-arike-ogunbowale-rally-no-2-louisville